Why Is Hand Washing So Important?

Why Is Hand Washing So Important?

A delicious mud pie, a good-luck rock, a friendly frog — just some of the types of goodies kids love to bring home. But these adorable gifts also can bring millions of germs with them.

Kids don't always listen when parents tell them to wash their hands before eating, after using the bathroom, or when they come inside from playing. But it's a message worth repeating — hand washing is by far the best way to prevent germs from spreading and to keep kids from getting sick.hand washing

First Line of Defense Against Germs

Germs can spread many ways, including:

When kids come into contact with germs, they can unknowingly become infected simply by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. And once they're infected, it's usually just a matter of time before the whole family comes down with the same illness.

Good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses — from the common cold to more serious infections, such as meningitis, bronchiolitis, the flu, hepatitis A, and most types of infectious diarrhea.

Washing Hands Correctly

Here's how to scrub those germs away. Teach this routine to your kids — or better yet, wash your hands together often so they learn how important this good habit is:

  1. Wash your hands in warm water. Make sure the water isn't too hot for little hands.
  2. Use soap and lather up for about 20 seconds (antibacterial soap isn't necessary — any soap will do). Make sure you get in between the fingers and under the nails where germs like to hang out. And don't forget the wrists!
  3. Rinse and dry well with a clean towel.

To minimize the germs passed around your family, make regular hand washing a rule for everyone, especially:

Don't underestimate the power of hand washing! The few seconds you spend at the sink could save you trips to the doctor's office.

Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: August 2014





Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2015 KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com





Bookmark and Share

Related Resources
OrganizationCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
Related Articles
"Stomach Flu" Having the "stomach flu" usually means spending a lot of time in the bathroom. Find out more in this article for kids.
Hand Washing Did you know that the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands? If you don't wash your hands frequently, you can pick up germs from other sources and then infect yourself.
Food Poisoning The germs that get into food and cause food poisoning are tiny, but can have a powerful effect on the body. Find out what to do if you get food poisoning - and how to prevent it.
Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease This common illness spreads easily in daycare centers and other places where young kids congregate. Learn how to protect your child.
Why Should I Care About Germs? Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease - and they're so small that they can creep into your system without you noticing. Find out how to protect yourself.
Food Safety for Your Family Why is food safety important? And how can you be sure your kitchen and the foods you prepare in it are safe?
Campylobacter Infections These bacterial infections can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. Good hand-washing and food safety habits can prevent them.
Gastrointestinal Infections and Diarrhea Nearly everybody gets diarrhea every once in a while, and it's usually caused by gastrointestinal infections. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. Read this article to learn more.
Being Safe in the Kitchen Cooking and baking are lots of fun - as long as you stay safe. Read this article for safety tips before you head into the kitchen.
Food Poisoning Sometimes, germs can get into food and cause food poisoning. Find out what to do if your child gets food poisoning - and how to prevent it.
Diarrhea Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, so it's important to know what to do to relieve and even prevent it.
How Can I Wash My Hands Without Spreading Germs? Find out what the experts have to say.
The Flu: Stop the Spread Follow these tips to help prevent the spread of the flu.
What Are Germs? You know they can hurt you, but what are these invisible creatures? Find out in this article for kids.
Flu Facts Every year from October to May, millions of people across the United States come down with the flu. Get the facts on the flu - including how to avoid it.
Tips From School Nurses on Keeping Students Healthy Encouraging hand washing is the best way teachers can help keep kids and teens avoid illness during the school year, school nurses say.
Staph Infections Staph bacteria can live harmlessly on many skin surfaces. But the bacteria can get into wounds and cause an infection. Get the details in this article for teens.
MRSA MRSA is a type of bacteria that the usual antibiotics can't tackle anymore. Simple precautions can help protect your kids from becoming infected.
Why Do I Have to Wash My Hands After Using the Bathroom? Wash after you flush! Find out why in this article for kids.
Why Do I Need to Wash My Hands? Washing your hands is the best way to stop germs from spreading. Learn all about the best way to wash your hands in this article for kids.
MRSA MRSA is a type of bacteria that the usual antibiotics can't tackle anymore. The good news is that there are some simple ways to protect yourself from being infected. Find out how.
iGrow iGrow
Sign up for our parent enewsletter